Editor’s note: For our fall Nonprofit issue, we invited local nonprofit leaders to reflect on the successes and challenges of operating a 501(c)(3) in Western North Carolina.
Lori Garcia-McCammon is the founder of True Ridge. The nonprofit works primarily with local Latino communities to ensure they feel seen, safe, integrated, respected and valued.
Xpress: What about this year’s volunteer/staff work gives you hope about your nonprofit’s mission and its overall impact on the community?
Garcia-McCammon: The dedication and selfless work of staff and volunteers is what has brought us through the tough times, not only this year but since the COVID pandemic started. Everyone in the organization came together to do what it takes to serve our community, which was disproportionately impacted over the years. True Ridge made its mark, and the impact was overwhelming. The number of people served directly and indirectly has tripled. We never lose hope — we hold onto it for dear life, and we are blessed in the process.
What has been the most challenging aspect of operating your nonprofit this year?
There have been so many challenges this past year. I believe I can speak not only for our nonprofit, but others as well, when it comes to the challenges of multiyear funding opportunities for operations, mental health challenges, struggling to keep quality staff (bilingual and bicultural) and being able to pay a living wage due to the ever-present increase of inflation. Self-care has gone on the back burner, which has led to burnout. And of course, illness — especially the long-term effects of COVID-19, such as fatigue, brain fog, respiratory issues and other symptoms — has also been a major challenge.
How have the last 2 1/2 years reshaped the way your nonprofit operates, and do you see these changes as permanent?
I believe that the past 2 1/2 years have definitely reshaped the way we operate our nonprofit. Due to the population we serve, we made choices to accept funding and to expand our services in ways that best serve our community. We partnered with other local and statewide organizations (WNC Health Network, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, N.C. Counts Coalition, our local health department, Hispanic Federation, United Way and others) to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate messaging to our Latino/Hispanic population.
Additionally, True Ridge staff delivered face coverings and sanitizer to our community; staff was also present at multiple events encouraging vaccinations, sharing information and other resources in the community that could help with emergency funds for rent, medical expenses, utilities, etc., for those affected by loss of work or illness.
I am not sure of the permanence of all of these changes as funding has started dwindling for those specific areas. But our core mission continues: advocacy in courts for victims of crime, immigration and always education.